Silver Linings in the Supreme
Court's Obamacare Decision
It can't be denied: the Supreme Court’s 5–4 decision upholding Obamacare was a victory for the president. His signature legislation, hated by conservatives and disapproved of by a majority of Americans in most polls, survives intact. Conservative pundits seethe, and leviathan's shadow looms over the political landscape.
But Obama's victory is far from total.
Obamacare is still hugely unpopular. Will the court decision change that? We think not. As with the bin Laden assassination, the boost to Obama's poll numbers will likely come and go in the blink of an eye.
Most voters still want Obamacare repealed. Mitt Romney and the GOP want to repeal it. Though Obama and the Dems want to save it, it’s a bad issue for them to run on.
Conservatives are ferociously aggrieved that Roberts and the court's four liberal justices upheld the health insurance mandate, as a tax.
But this same majority of justices struck a blow against Congress’s power to regulate commerce by striking down the mandate-as-mandate. They have thus raised a new and formidable barrier to the further expansion of the federal government's size and scope. Conservatives and constitutionalists should welcome this.
Congressional power under the constitution is now a political issue – one that won't be fading away any time soon. This can only work powerfully in the GOP's favor.
Conservatives grouse that statists in Congress can skirt the Court's declaration that a mandate is beyond Congress’s enumerated powers simply by framing it as a tax. But politicians now pay a steeper than usual price for raising taxes. Why else did Barack Obama insist ad infinitum that it wasn't one? Why else did Democrat leaders do the same?
Roberts’s reasoning undercuts them, now and for the foreseeable future. Congressional Democrats will face the wrath of the electorate if they dare raise taxes. Of what use are their new, supposedly unlimited powers if they're certain to be voted out of office for using them?
And don't forget the Constitution’s provision that tax bills must originate in the House of Representatives. That's another powerful argument Republican congressional candidates can use from here on out. Thank you, Justice Roberts.
Nor should we overlook how the Court struck down part of the Obamacare legislation – the provision giving the federal government the power to cut off Medicaid funding for the states if the states refuse to expand Medicaid eligibility. Congress no longer has the leverage of partial federal funding to force states to feed leviathan. Does this not work powerfully against big-government? For decades now Medicaid has been hugely expanded in just this way. The Roberts Court is declaring an end to this federal power grab.
True enough, the court’s decision brought much relief to the White House. The Obama administration was spared the hammer blow of the court's conservative bloc. But the underlying assumptions brought to office by Obama have still been publicly repudiated. The New Deal narrative, with its depiction of a statist juggernaut bound for inexorable triumph, is breaking down. More and more Americans now openly question once-sacred ideas concerning the benefits and wisdom of a centralized state.
History does not move in just one direction – toward big government. It may have from 1929 to 1945. But in the early years of this still-young century, one entire branch of government, even as it upholds Obamacare, has tilted the political and legal playing field against leviathan, more decisively and fundamentally than would have been possible or imaginable a few short years ago.
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